Not a trace of the morning blue sky remained. Everything is covered with clouds, and you had to guess the right direction. A little drizzling rain, this was enough to feel uncomfortable.
Just behind the village of Gokyo begins a glacier that must be crossed. It is wide enough, and in such a fog you cannot see the “banks” when you cross it. If I didn’t have a GPS , I would have to get nervous. The fact is that the glacier is of such a type that it is covered with a layer of stones crumbling from the mountain slopes. The trail is not visible here at all, it splits into dozens of small directions that can simply disappear while you walk along them. There were either no turiks pointing to the main direction, or there were, but ambiguous. These small but deep lakes / puddles are of two colors: azure green, like a sprite, or dirty brown, or half-and-half.
An interesting situation is to wander through the desert of stones with lakes of melt water along the lost paths. Moreover, the area is filled with crumbling stones, and even on the map hanging in the village, the area is marked as “Falling rocks” – falling stones. They roll down the slope when the surface of the glacier melts, or from Yaks wandering from above on the slopes. Several I was able to notice, even in this fog.
After some time, I stumbled upon a good path, in which smaller paths were going, but even it was well covered with stones. Already along it I climbed the opposite slope from Gokyo. The fog and drizzle did not disappear, but the picture still changed dramatically. Now the path lay along a small plateau sandwiched between a steep rock several hundred meters in height and a precipice to the glacier. The rock now and then peeped out of the clouds of fog and again hid somewhere in their depths. Grass strewn with flowers was already rustling underfoot, and sometimes hefty curious yaks emerged from the fog. Fabulous atmosphere.
After a couple of kilometers there were several houses, which were a checkpoint to the Cho La pass. Here I planned to have lunch and gain strength in front of a serious obstacle, and I also wanted to take a break from the rain. These plans were not destined to come true, absolutely all the houses were closed for the off-season. This pass is so unpopular at this time of year. But this place was not empty either, here I met old acquaintances, that couple of Americans who left the village in the morning. Moreover, they had a guide with them, whom I had not seen in Gokyo. He reminded me of old Totoro from Hayao Miyazaki’s cartoon. So plump, funny and with a big black umbrella. He was surprised to see a tourist without a guide storming Cho La alone.
I didn’t wait for them to rest to go together. All because, like that time, they walk too slowly. It is a waste of time and effort to adapt to them. Although a free guide at your side there would definitely not hurt. I had to have a snack on the go, everything in the area is absolutely raw, and the dinner is modest: dry beachpack, coconut and a couple of sweets with plain water.
The first part of the pass is an ascent with a relatively small climb along a well-trodden path. To the right of the trail, a pretty stream gurgles, appearing and disappearing in the fog. When I climbed a little higher, the fog cleared for a while, and it was like a breath of fresh air. A dozen grazing yaks appeared behind the fog, right on the slopes of the mountains. They had absolutely nothing to do with me.
The first part of Cho La ended with a small pass, after which the road went down with a good drop in height. Then I thought: “Is that all? And they scare everyone with this? Yes, the last Renjo Pass was much more serious. ” How wrong I was then! Yes, the path went far down and the clouds were no longer dense, allowing you to see far ahead. But then the rain broke out in earnest, and the rock that appeared in the fog, went high into the sky, and lay right along the way, made it clear that all this was only the beginning.
The trail led down to a small clearing, where many tent marks were clearly visible. It is not difficult to guess that this is a place for a good rest before a serious test. Many stayed here for the night, in order to pass this section in the morning with renewed vigor, in good weather and with a good margin of time. I walked after lunch and risked not passing the pass until dark. On the map it is small and inconspicuous, except for the screaming inscriptions around it about falling stones and loose particles.
After the clearing, the path went up. The terrain changed dramatically: if before that I walked along the path between the green meadows of the plateau with grazing yaks, now Mordor began. Black lifeless stones, piled in some crazy order, a narrow path winds between the stones like a silver ribbon, going straight into the same silver fog, and the silence is broken only by stones rolling down in the distance and your own steps.
The path abruptly abuts against the rock to the sky and it seems that maybe you were going in the wrong direction and missed a turn somewhere. But no, the trail starts along the stone wall, then turns almost 180 degrees and again. Wild serpentine has to climb this mountain, the end of which is not visible because of the fog. Worst of all, underfoot is not a tight, stable road, but stones that crumble and slide down. It’s hard for me to imagine how a large group can go through this place, it’s very dangerous! No matter how careful the one who goes above is, he somehow launches a chain of falling stones, which can very much tear down those who go below. Even if he has time to shout “Stone!”, There is nowhere to hide from them. This is an extremely dangerous place. It’s not sweet for one to walk here either, if you slip on this crumb, no one will catch you, stop you.
The higher you climb, the steeper the slope becomes. The rain does not stop for a second and the stones are wet and slippery. There is no longer a path, there is only a direction, you have to climb boulders and each time check the reliability of the chosen path. Most of all I want to go back and do not care how much you rewound and where you have already climbed. To return not down, not to the beginning of this path, but to where there is another road, a road that is easier and safer. Never before have I had such a strong feeling to go back.
Words cannot convey how glad I was to see the flags at the top of the pass, emerging from the fog. This meant that I was on the right path, and there was still a little left! There is nothing worse than the unknown. With my last efforts, I quickly climbed upstairs to finally rest. But the thought of resting quickly vanished when the sight opened. Of course, I knew that there was a glacier on the other side of the pass, but I didn’t imagine it that way, for sure. Unlike the glacier at Gokyo, this one was a real piece of ice, melted from the near side with such a large puddle. In addition, its entire surface melted from the rain and resembled a sponge or a piece of pumice, dotted with cylindrical holes filled with blue water. Here and there the glacier was crossed by a stream of melt water. But the most important thing is no path.
I wandered around for about ten minutes before I found a way to climb the glacier. The crampons and the ice ax, which I did not have, would not be placed here. I felt like a cow on ice. The surface of the glacier did not allow sliding, but walking was also completely uncomfortable. Worst of all, it seemed to me that I was again not walking along the main road, and I could not find the main one. The glacier is wide enough, and its beginning is lost in the fog that swallowed the top of the mountain of clouds. I do not know the height of this mountain, but the pass itself is at an altitude of 5350 m. Symptoms of altitude sickness could be felt here, but apart from fatigue and dampness I felt nothing. The boots got absolutely wet, we had to measure it up and walk slowly to the nearest parking lot.
I decided to cross the stream while walking along the trail. It was easy. So I ended up on the right side of the glacier. Know, then, that the main path is completely on the other side, everything could have turned out differently. The slope of the glacier was getting steeper, and it was no longer safe to walk on it without equipment, so I moved to the right side of the mountain. It was a pile of stones, large and small, loose. I then completely hid the phone from the rain and did not take pictures. Actually, this saved him, because at some point, I just felt that I was flying upside down. Abrupt landing and surprise. I don’t know where and how I was able to fly like this, but I flew at least a meter. Slipped, rolled … I don’t know. I was even more surprised how, flying upside down, I landed so softly and did not break my head and did not break my neck (although maybe broke or hit, I’m just lying now in a coma and I see one continuous hallucination). Looking around, I realized that my backpack (well, or a guardian angel) saved me from a strong blow, reducing it completely to nothing, the backpack caught on a stone and took the whole blow on itself. Thus, at the Cho La pass I was the closest to throwing back my hooves, the closest in my whole life, and there were many moments.
Standing up, I continued my descent with extreme caution. There it was already clear that the main path, most likely, on the other side, the road along the glacier ended with a dead end and a steep descent, possible only from the special. equipment, and my path, although not the main one, also led somewhere. This was evidenced by footprints and small turiks preserved on the stones. True, then they ended too. There were no options to go wrong, so there was no need to worry about them. On the left was a stream from a melting glacier, and on the right was a hefty slope, from the top of which this glacier began in a spiral. In the worst case, I would have to wade through this stormy stream. Something suggested that the situation would be resolved by itself, but I didn’t really believe in it. GPS showed the right direction on the phone, it really made me happy! It was already evening, dusk was approaching. I didn’t want to stay halfway, without hot food and even more so without a place where you could dry out. It was an incentive to move, even when the forces were pretty worn out.
And now, in a slightly receding fog, several houses loomed. Not a village, but a staging post for tourists. He was like mana from heaven! It could be, like that post on the other side of the pass, closed for the off-season, because here, following a simple logic, there are exactly as many tourists walking as on the other side of the pass! But it was not closed! All because construction was carried out here. Several workers were assembling another house, and I learned from them where I could stay here.
In the only working cafe, a girl ran all the affairs. She was just in charge of preparing a supper for the fellow workers. She expressed surprise to see a lone tourist here with such a backpack at such a time. I dedicated her to my story, and she was even more surprised at her! Amazing girl! (* subtle humor from the film “Forest Gump”). All the while I was telling the story, I was sitting and warming myself by the stove. I changed my damp boots for slates and my clothes for drier ones. At dinner, the company was made up of workers, there were no less than 7 people and almost all of them were addicted to local whiskey, which I had to refuse. That’s what I did not refuse, because this offer is free to spend the night in one of the available rooms of the cafe, absolutely free. Royal offer!
When it was already completely dark, and I was sipping hot tea with cookies, three men burst into the cafe. They were raw, tired, but very positive guide and a couple of Americans, the very ones from Gokyo. The guide also twisted his leg somewhere and limped, so it was very interesting for me to listen to their story. The evening was long and very soulful, just like our stories. This Sherpa told me that I really was walking on the wrong side of the glacier, but that was where he managed to screw himself up. I imagined him with an umbrella conquering that pass – Totoro in the mountains!
The room was small and cozy, and I had never seen such thick blankets. While somewhere there, near the stove, my things were drying, I went to bed, because early in the morning I was waiting for the final section of the way to Gorak Sherpa and the Everest base camp.